Automotive Course Masterclass: Transforming Motorcycles into Racing Superbikes

Superbike racing is one of the most intense motorsport competitions in the world. Professional riders push their physical and mental capabilities to their very limit as they attempt to negotiate a grueling 90km circuit at breakneck speeds.

Even more impressively, they do this using motorcycles that aren’t that much different from the standard bikes available at any dealership. While other competitions like Formula One and MotoGP feature specially designed custom-built vehicles, Superbike regulations specify that racing teams must use production models, with only slight modifications allowed.

So how do superbike engineers and mechanics get an ordinary bike to produce the sort of performance you see on a superbike track? Read on to find out.

Superbike Regulations Explained for Students in Auto Technician Courses

Superbike rules can vary depending on the specific competition, but always specify that stock production models are used, with high performance sports bikes such as the Suzuki GSX-R1000 and the Yamaha R1 being among the most popular.

Racing teams are allowed to replace certain components, such as the wheels, brakes, and even the entire exhaust system of a bike. However, they must maintain the original frame and leave the engine and major mechanical components such as valves and pistons untouched.

How Automotive Pros Modify Superbikes

With so many restrictions, racing teams have something of a challenge on their hands when seeking to maximise superbike performance. One way they do this is by reducing the vehicle’s weight in order to make it more aerodynamic. For instance, engineers will often make the brakes on a Superbike significantly lighter, typically cutting them down to about 370lbs, where stock brakes tend to weigh around 430lbs.

Students in auto technician courses will also be interested to learn that, because they don’t have to comply with EPA emissions standards, teams will often refit their exhausts in order to improve airflow. This modification can give a standard production bike with a horsepower of 160 a boost of up to 240hp.

Tires are also a crucial factor in Superbike racing. In the Superbike World Championship, for instance, principle manufacturer Pirelli needs to supply a variety of different options to cater for different tracks, weather conditions and individual preferences. The company currently offers six different rear tire and four front tire compounds, each specially designed to factor in temperature, surface quality, and circuit layout.

Automotive Course Tech: Using Data and Mapping to Improve Performance

Of course, students who are fans of motorsports and who might be aspiring for an auto repair career won’t be surprised to learn that computer technology also plays a major role in Superbike racing. Teams use the wealth of data collected from each race to analyze and improve their performance, making key modifications which factor in a number of variables such as engine behaviour, tire type, and brake pressure.

The electronic control units on superbikes also include a series of ‘maps,’ which are programmable instructions that make it easier to control the bike at high speeds. These will include settings for common functions such as ignition timing instructions and traction and wheelie controls.

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